The devil's in the detail

Take This WaltzKing of Devil’s Island
Take This WaltzKing of Devil’s Island

Title: King of Devil's Island

Director: Marius Holst

Rated: M

The "prison movie" genre has a familiarity and certain established clichés and conventions that are evident in Marius Holst's fourth feature film, but this very skilfully made and finely detailed movie transcends them. The story is based on real events that occurred at the Bastoy Boy's Home correctional facility, on a small island near Oslo in Norway, in 1915.

The film begins with the arrival of two new boys, Erling (Benjamin Helstad) and Ivar (Magnus Langlete), who are henceforth titled C19 and C5. The facility's governor, Haken Bestyreren (Stellan Skarsgard) is austere, but basically decent, believing that manual labour, strict discipline and harsh punishment are the essentials of reform. Erling is defiant towards authority and determined to escape, but somehow develops a friendship with the head boy Olav C1 (Trond Nilssen), who is nearing his release.

In this slow-burning story, friendships are the critical subject matter; the way that they evolve under the pressure of the chain of events and the dark secrets that simmer under the apparently ordered and strict moral code that the facility is managed by. The film is both compelling and disturbing in revealing how hypocrisy and corruption and abuse of power can lead to rebellion.

The bleak beauty and freezing environment certainly suit the movie's dour and heavy feel. The performances by the young cast are outstanding, and the minimalist music score is a perfect fit.

King of Devil's Island will be screened at the Bush Theatre, Nimbin on Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21, at 7.30pm.

Title: Take This Waltz

Director: Sarah Polley

Rated: MA

Once again Michelle Williams shows what a superlative actress she is, in Take This Waltz. Following her recent acclaim in the role of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, Williams plays a completely different character in this new film, but she remains just as mesmerising, natural and unforced.

The film is a fascinating portrait of love by the Canadian writer/director Sarah Polley, whose impressive 2006 debut feature Away From Her was also about love, but in that case concerned love fading through dementia. Take This Waltz is a story of young lovers, and the title is based on the song by Leonard Cohen.

Margot (Williams) has been married five years to Lou, a cookbook writer convincingly played against type by Seth Rogan. On a working trip Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), who coincidentally lives opposite their suburban house. There is an intense and immediate attraction between the two of them, and Margot is torn between her loyalty to Lou and her attraction to Daniel, between stability and comfort versus passion and the unknown.

The story is played out through a steamy summer in Toronto, and the subject matter of Polley's screenplay is just so authentic and evocative. Williams is in every scene in the film, a woman restless in life and love, "afraid of being afraid".

The music and the songs are brilliant, and the provocative sequence with Cohen's wonderfully bizarre song sums up many aspects of the story. The stolen moment of the swimming pool dance is one of the most beautiful and hypnotic scenes in the film. Not to be missed.

Take This Waltz will be screened at Star Court Theatre on Sunday, July 22, at 7.30pm and Friday, July 27, at 5.30pm.

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